25 October 2019

Tortuga Crisis: One of biggest pirate CDNs eliminated dragging other big CDN-providers down

Group-IB, a Singapore-based cybersecurity company that specializes in preventing cyberattacks, has discovered that the shutdown of Moonwalk CDN (Content Delivery Network), one of the biggest pirate-powered providers of video content to Russian-speaking viewers, has likely led to the closure of HDGO and Kodik CDNs— major providers of pirated video content to Russian streaming websites.

In early February 2019, Group-IB Anti-Piracy team for the first time provided details on the activity of Moonwalk, which began operating in 2015 and carried 33,490 movies and TV shows, paying out $0.60 per 1000 views at the time. It was one of the biggest suppliers of illegal video content to thousands of pirate websites, which allowed to automate pirated content distribution. In October 2019, anti-piracy groups BREIN, MPA and ACE took down Moonwalk saying that Moonwalk’s database contained 26,000 movies and more than 10,000 TV shows at the moment of shutdown. According to Group-IB’s Anti-Piracy experts’ data, Moonwalk carried 28,258 movies and 14,549 TV shows at the moment of blocking.

Group-IB’s experts have found out that the shutdown of Moonwalk likely led to the closure of other big pirate-powered CDNs: HDGO and Kodik. Most likely this was a knock-on effect. The content provided by Kodik and HDGO was also stored on the servers in the Netherlands and therefore could appear on the radars of anti-piracy groups who took down Moonwalk. All the three CDNs are known as the biggest providers of pirated video content to Russian streaming websites. The takedown of Moonwalk’s technical infrastructure and closure of HDGO and Kodik have hit Russian pirate streaming websites hard, which historically depended heavily on CDNs.

Moonwalk’s CDN player could have been built-in into thousands of websites and they all could take pirated video content from this single source. In the short-term perspective, the shutdown of Moonwalk, HDGO, and Kodik could mean a big blow to online piracy in Russia and can potentially contain pirated video content distribution for some time. In the long term, however, this measure will not have major impact, because there are many competitors left who can fill this niche

Dmitry Tyunkin

Dmitry Tyunkin

Deputy Director of Anti-Piracy and Brand Protection at Group-IB

According to Group-IB’s data, now, after the takedown of Moonwalk and closure of HDGO and Kodik, there are currently about 10 pirate-powered CDNs providing video content to Russia and the CIS countries. It is worth noting that pirate-powered CDNs are a purely Russian phenomenon.

According to Group-IB’s data, 80% of pirated movies in Russia are now streamed, a figure that increases to 90% for TV shows. The majority of Russian online pirates use CDNs because they store hundreds of thousands of files containing films and TV series, and offer a technical service that allows to automatically place this content on pirate websites. Some of these technical CDN providers also offer web modules that autofill sites with film posters and descriptions, and in some cases even supply unique reviews.

Moonwalk, HDGO, and Kodik didn’t provide any content in languages apart from those spoken in the CIS countries. Moonwalk was the only exception, it, for example, had about 2,000 content items on Portuguese, since the service planned to enter Brazil’s piracy market. In view of the above, the takedown of the three CDNs will first and foremost impact CIS countries, where over 90 percent of all the pirate streaming websites were affected.

Group-IB is one of the leading providers of solutions aimed at detection and prevention of cyberattacks, online fraud, and IP protection. Group-IB Threat Intelligence & Attribution system was named one of the best in class by Gartner, Forrester, and IDC.

Group-IB’s technological leadership is built on the company’s 17 years of experience in cybercrime investigations worldwide and 65,000 hours of incident response accumulated in our leading forensic laboratory and 24/7 CERT-GIB.

Group-IB is a partner of INTERPOL, Europol, and a cybersecurity solutions provider, recommended by SWIFT and OSCE. Group-IB is a member of the World Economic Forum.

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